Black Candles
Director: Jose Ramon Larraz
(as Joseph Braunstein)

Director: Mario Siciliano

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Turd Alert

Black Candles A clear clean restoration of a non-classic piece of ultra-rubbish Black Candles (Los Ritos Sexuales del Diablo, 1982) gives the public a chance to see badly written, badly acted sex & witchcraft grindhouse sleeze in even better condition than if it had been seen new in the few lingering grindhouses of the 1980s, whose run-down projection equipment tended to scratch & break the prints.

It is also circulating in a poor transfer under the variant title Naked Dreams, a pretty good title for a film with the overall premise that sex is the equivalent of evil.

It was once distributed for adults only video with the title Hot Fantasies, the hot part being hell's punishments for being sexual. The original Spanish title literally translates "Sexual Rites of the Devil," which is what it's about all righty.

It starts right off with girl-on-top doing-it action, then jump-cuts to a voodoo doll getting a pin in its heart, then back to bald-guy-on-bottom having a heart attack & dying.

Black CandlesThe dubbing into English is surprisingly well done all things being relative, though the film hardly deserved even that much care.

Carol (Vanessa Hildago) & her boyfriend Robert (Mauro Rivera) arrive in London & are taken to an isolated country house by Carol's widowed sister-in-law Leona (Helga Line).

The electricity is out, but Leona has plenty of black candles for light. And there are demonic lithographs framed on a wall. And big surprise, Leona's a witch.

Apart from dreams & ghostly messages from Carol's dead brother, the supernatural barely intrudes in this Sex & Satanic Rituals film.

Black CandlesAs a weird tale it just fails. As a grand guinol or giallo, it is also completely lame.

Very little of substance or interest occurs & there are zero giallo moments. Just saying "Satan" is this film's idea of the height of scariness.

It really exists for the lame R rated sex scenes, both straight & lesbian. A coven's evil plans are afoot & it doesn't look good for Carol.

Boyfriend Robert, already a defrocked priest, is all too easily corrupted. For him, embracing Satan means cussing while demanding Carol give him anal sex.

As cheapo sexploitation horror goes, this one's competent for its color cinematography, but otherwise dull, gutless, & silly. It's like a sadomasochistic Dennis Wheatley novel but without the imagination.

Black CandlesBut you gotta give it some credit for selecting as a chief victim the sacrifice of a fat farmer stabbed up the ass, instead of the usual virgin.

I assume the fat farmer fulfilled one of director's fave sex fantasies that no other seedy director on earth was going to get round to.

Eventually we get round to the Satanic ritual which consists primarily of an orgy between sexually unappealing actors.

If you have forever fantasized your bald uncle doing his hag of a mistress while his double-chinned wife watches with lolling tongue, then this'll be hot stuff for you.

The finale has Carol prepared as Satan's bride so we get the pretty-girl sacrifice for climax, though unlike the pig-stuck farmer, Carol's sacrifice is mainly "dirty" sex, gay & straight, with tongues & humping. Sex appears to be inherently satanic to this filmmaker, unless the satany part is how absolutely nobody is the least bit attractive.

Doublebill For a doublebill marketing gambit, the perfect companion for Black Candles truly is Evil Eye (Malocchio, 1974), for they share the theme of Satanism; & they're deadly dull with lame orgies starring homely people, dubbed into English no more clumsily than average.

I think Evil Eye is marginally less dull because there's greater intimations of demonic powers, not that the supernatural was required just to have sex & kill people.

In his sleep, Peter (Jorge Rivero) experiences a coven's Satanic activities, or perhaps an amateur troupe of jazz dancers practicing in their basement.

Evil EyeWhether he's just having nightmares from his own subconscious or is being telepathically invaded we'll soon know.

When he encounters Yvonne (Eva Vanicek), a woman from his nightmares, he has to admit there's something legitimately fishy.

She believes he'll kill her, because she's been having the same dreams in which he assaults her brutally. But he has absolutely no desire to hurt anyone -- until he loses control that is.

Peter communicates with a murdered man in one of his many nightmares. Another man vomits a frog. Events occur rather randomly, some of them more colorful than others, none of them adding up to much that could be taken as a coherent plot.

Evil EyeDeaths occur around him in hallucinatory manners until he can't tell the real from the unreal, which has the benefit of keeping the writer or director of this loose anal squeezing from even trying to make it sensible as a story.

He consults a psychiatrist (token American, Richard Conte, in hard-up days for getting work), who attempts to treat him without much success.

For the longest while Peter doesn't know if he's the cause of all the horror & doom or just another of its victims. Whether mind control or cultic spell-casting, the film doesn't feel it needs to sort any of it out, & if the murderer is ever definitively revealed, I must've blinked, having found it all as little watchable as dubbed giallo gets.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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